75+ Reasons to Love Utah

Once again Utah has been named No. 1 in U.S. News & World Report‘s annual rankings of the best states. But for those of us who have been living and loving this place, that’s not news. This year, for our annual celebration of the people, places and things that make Utah transplendent, we decided to go beyond U.S. News & World Report’s dry data collection and piles of stats and share the actual reasons Utah is No. 1. What makes a place a special place is the people, the things they create and the places they play. Of course, there are too many reasons to list. We had to stop somewhere so we settled on a mere 75+ of our favorite things to eat, see and do from around the state and share the stories of the people who make it all possible. Consider this your guide for the next year to find new experiences and share the love.

Reason No. 01 Community Building

Our Fave: Missy Greis of Publik
Overheard on the East Liberty Tap Room patio: “Well, if it isn’t the mayor of 9th and 9th?” someone hollered at the oncoming approach of Missy Greis, the owner of Publik Coffee, a recently remodeled anchor of the ever-changing 9th and 9th Neighborhood. “Come see us!” She hollers back. “We have a real kitchen now!” And continued on her dog-walking survey of the hood. Missy’s business is coffee but her mission is creating spaces that build community. 931 E. 900 South, SLC; 975 S. West Temple, SLC; 502 E. 3rd Ave., SLC; 210 S. University St., SLC; publikcoffee.com—JP

Missy Gries of Publik. Photo credit Austin Diamond

Reason No. 02 Pickleball Mecca

Our Fave: Professional Pickleball Association: Selkirk Red Rock Open
Utah is home to some of the world’s top pickleball players: Callie Jo Smith, Allyce Jones, Tyler Loong, and more. It’s ranked the third-best state for pickleball in the U.S. based on the number of courts, coaching, teams and tournaments. Picklers and pro tournaments, such as the Selkirk Red Rock Open, love St. George for its year-round sunny courts complete with panoramic red rock vistas. Utah Tech University (located in St. George) just won the U.S. Collegiate Pickleball Championships in January, besides which, Utah boasts four college clubs ranking within the top 10. Yeah, we’re nuts about pickleball. ppatour.com—HH

Reason No. 03 Hounds on Holiday

Our Fave: Best Friends Roadhouse & Mercantile
Designed for pets and their people, Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile is a first-of-its-kind, pet-centric hotel. With 40 airy rooms complete with cozy beds for all, the hotel is situated along trails in beautiful Kanab, offering endless exploration with your furry friend. Take advantage of the dog park with a seasonal splash pad or volunteer at the animal sanctuary. 30 N. 300 West, Kanab, bestfriendsroadhouse.org—HH

Image courtesy of Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile

Reason No. 04 Walkable Main Streets

Our Fave: 25th Street (+ Ogden Farmers Market)
Ogden’s Historic 25th Street made USA Today’s list of best main streets this past spring. It’s easy to see why. The street is near Ogden Amphitheater, the home of Ogden Twilight concerts, and offers spots to eat, drink and shop year-round. We love it most during the Ogden Farmers Market. Vendors range from beekeepers to the mushroom guy. Musicians perform and there’s a down-to-earth, friendly vibe, Saturdays from May to September. farmersmarketogden.com—JW

Photo courtesy of Visitogden.com

Reason No. 05 The Wasatch Backcountry

Our Fave: Chuting Gallery, Andrew McLean, 1998
Utah’s snow really is the greatest on Earth. The Wasatch Range is one of the snowiest ski regions in America with a unique climate that churns out low-density fluff known as “cold smoke” powder. Factor in high elevation and low humidity and you’ve got a skier’s dream. Those willing to go off the beaten path are rewarded with first tracks, mindblowing pow and endless photo ops–but it’s not for the faint of heart nor the inexperienced. Neither is Andrew McLean’s guidebook Chuting Gallery, often considered to be the ski-mountaineering bible of the Wasatch. With 90 descents that include many ice climbing and climbing ascents, finishing every line in the book is a feat many skiers take a lifetime to complete. Pick it up while you get outfitted at Skimo, 2477 Fort Union Blvd., Cottonwood Heights. straightchuter.com—HH

Spencer Glende ascends Mount Superior at first light. Photo credit Harland Hayes

Reason No. 06 Haute Morning Buns

Our Fave: Tulie Bakery
Suppose you want to feel like a chic and modern Parisian for a day. In that case, Tulie boasts that understated-cool French bakery vibe that will make you want to do the Times’ crossword puzzle or read Proust while ripping off morsels of a perfectly crisped morning bun, sipping a sexy espresso or devouring a slice of olive oil cake. This assumes, of course, that you’ve made it to either Salt Lake location before 10 a.m. Any later, and we can’t guarantee you’ll see even a crumb of morning bun. The olive oil cake doesn’t stick around for long, either. 863 E. 700 South, SLC; 1510 S. 1500 East, SLC; tuliebakery.com—HH

Reason No. 07 The Hills Are Alive

Our Fave: Tuacahn Outdoor Ampitheatre
With a red rock backdrop and an overhead curtain of stars, Tuacahn Outdoor Amphitheatre hosts a season of musicals and concerts from early summer through late fall. The 2024 season includes Disney’s Frozen, Anastasia and Jersey Boys. Tickets range from $55-$158. 1100 Tuacahn Drive, Ivins, tuacahn.org—HH

Tuacahn’s production of Mary Poppins. Photo courtesy of Tuacahn Outdoor Ampitheatre

Reason No. 08 Indie Bookstores Abound

Our Fave: Lovebound Library
As an annual billion-dollar-plus industry—making it the highest-earning genre of fiction—romance isn’t relegated to the bottom shelf of the airport Hudson News or a back corner of a big box bookstore. Proudly-swathed-in-pink Maven District’s newcomer Lovebound Library is proving that you absolutely can judge a book by its seductive cover. Demonstrating the great diversity of the realm of romance, the pint-sized store has shelves packed with young adult fiction, LGBTQ+ authors and characters, urban fantasy, local writers, historical swashbucklers and all the spicy stories topping the “best of” charts. We love to see it. 145 E. 900 South, SLC, Instagram

Reason No. 09 Wildlife is a HUUUUUUUGE Deal

Our Fave: Utah Wildlife Walls
Combining a passion for wildlife conservation and public art, the Utah Wildlife Federation and artist Chris Peterson aim to paint monumental fish and wildlife murals in each of the Beehive State’s 29 counties. Starting in 2022 with the installation of a 120-foot Bonneville cutthroat trout mural at The Neighborhood Hive in Sugar House, the Utah Wildlife Walls project has also recently unveiled murals of a golden eagle in Midvale and colorful Colorado River cutthroat trout in Vernal. Keep your eyes peeled for murals being unveiled this summer, including a desert tortoise planned in St. George, another huge cutthroat trout in Logan, and a bunch of critters—bison, pronghorn and burrowing owls, oh my!—at Antelope Island. celebrateutahwildlife.org; Instagram: @utahwildlifewalls—DD

“Colorado River Cutthroat Trout” in Vernal is one of the  Utah Wildlife Walls. Photo credit Chris Peterson/ Utah Wildlife Federation

Reason No. 10 Pub Quiz Master Mastery

Our Fave: Bryton Sampson at Dick ‘n’ Dixies
Every week pubs around town present extremely competitive Quiz Nights. One of the most popular (and most serious) is hosted on Wednesdays at Dick ’n’ Dixies by Bryton Sampson. He’s funny. He’s real smart. And, best of all, he writes his own questions customized for the regular teams at Dix. “These guys come to play,” he says. “I make up the hardest rounds and think ‘No way anyone is going to get this.’” Most nights the winning team is within one point of the second-place finishers and there are often ties. Get a (no more than six-member) team together, come thirsty and come early. The bar fills up fast. Dick ’n’ Dixies, Wednesdays at  7 p.m., 479 E. 300 South, SLC—JP

Bryton Sampson at Dick ‘n’ Dixies. Photo credit Adam Finkle.

Reason No. 11 Red Rock Zen

Our Fave: Snow Canyon State Park
Snow Canyon State Park offers folks a serious recharge. Known to be a climber’s, biker’s and hiker’s paradise, the sunny, well-marked (and mostly flat) trails lead to towering red rock formations and bleached canyon walls. We’re intoxicated by this desert tableau awash with hues from stark white to every variation of pink and red. Nearby resorts like Red Mountain Resort, Black Desert Resort and Sentierre Resort specialize in world-class amenities, wellness and relaxation. We love doing as much—or as little—as we want, from spa treatments and massages to yoga and guided hikes in Snow Canyon. After the sun sets, don’t forget to take in the desert sky’s brilliant blanket of stars. 275 Red Mountain Cir., Ivins, redmountainresort.com; 1500 East Black Desert Dr., Ivins, blackdesertresort.com; 800 Tuacahn Dr., Shivwits, sentierre.com—HH 

Reason No. 12 Local Distillers

Our Fave: Beehive Distilling
A not-so-hidden secret of the spirits industry: most of the corn used in U.S. whiskey production comes from a handful of states, all at least a time zone or two east of Utah. Not so for local booze monger Beehive Distilling, where lead distiller Chris Barlow sources heritage corn varieties—Hopi blue corn in the mash bill of their rye whiskey, and Oaxacan green corn in their upcoming 4-year bourbon release—grown near Bear River City and Monroe. Last year those Utah farmers harvested about 28,000 pounds of distillery-dedicated corn. If conditions cooperate, there’s even more in the ground right now destined for milling, fermenting, distilling and bottling by the fine folks at Beehive Distilling in 2025. Cheers to that! 2245 S. West Temple, SLC and most Utah state liquor and wine stores. beehivedistilling.com—DD

Reasons to Love Utah

Reason No. 13 Gluten-Free Slices

Our Fave: Lucky Slice Pizza
You can find gluten-free pizza almost anywhere, but not all are safe for folks with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. Many “fast” GF pizzas are unfortunately cross-contaminated by the surfaces they’re made on or the hands that make them. That being said, it would suck for a pie to cost as much as your last stop for gas. Thankfully, there’s Lucky Slice. Celiac people we know report no problems, and a scrumptious 14-inch one-topping is less than $18. Resistant to gluten’s evil? Try the Dough Puppies, fried dough balls tossed with butter, Parmesan, garlic and herbs. 207 25th Street, Ogden (also located in Clearfield and Logan), 801-627-2229, theluckyslice.com—JW

Photo courtesy of Lucky Slice Pizza

Reason No. 14 The Running of Things

Our Fave: The Smith’s Produce Run
The Washington Nationals have the “Running of the Presidents” and here, we have the running of a tomato, a banana, a carrot, a corn and either a bunch of grapes (or an eggplant—no one knows). Behold! We give you the “Smith’s Produce Run.” Between the second and third innings, fans plucked from the crowd are suited up as produce and run full-speed around the field. It is often the case that one of our veggies falls (“Carrot is down!) as they cross the visiting pitcher’s bullpen. We love this whole absurd thing. So much. milb.com/salt-lake—JP

Reason No. 15 Local Podcasts

Our Fave: Let’s Go Eat Drink SLC
At some point (we imagine) X-96s Bill Allred turned to Utah’s favorite “Wine Guy,” Jimmy Santangelo (Wine Academy of Utah) and said, “Hey Jimmy wanna make a podcast?” and Jimmy said, “Why not?” Thus, Let’s Go Eat Drink SLC was born. The wandering boozy show is ostensibly about food and wine but predictably ranges all over the map. The magic is in the blend here. Jimmy’s wise guy East Coast accent pairs beautifully with Allred’s sonorous tones. And we know these guys have opinions. Find it wherever you listen and on YouTube
@LetsGoEatandDrink —JP

The cast of Let’s
Go Eat Drink SLC. Photo courtesy of Dawson Dow.

Reason No. 16 Ghost Towns are Real Here

Our Fave: Silver Reef
Today, little remains of the once-bustling mining town of Silver Reef near St. George. Established by a Nevada prospector who discovered a vein of silver in sandstone, by 1879, 2,000 people called Silver Reef their home. With a mile-long Main Street filled with businesses including a Wells Fargo office, the Rice Building, and the Cosmopolitan Restaurant, miners and Mormons coalesced. When the price of silver dropped, mines closed, and people moved on. But foundation remnants and the graveyard (where many miners on the wrong end of a shootout are purported to rest) remain. 1903 Wells Fargo Rd. Leeds, silverreef.org—HH

The historic Wells Fargo
building in Silver Reef. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Reasons to Love Utah

Reason No. 17 Specialty Markets

Our Fave: The Fox Market
For Tom and Cara Fox, there’s something irresistible about the lively buzz and welcoming ambiance of European markets and cafes, so they decided to create something equally delightful in the heart of Holladay with the Fox Market. Tom and Cara—principals of The Fox Group, a premiere home builder and interior design firm—transformed the former Meier’s Chicken shop into a neighborhood haven, “a little European oasis that celebrates local crafts, people and purveyors,” Cara says. Fox Market, 4708 S. Holladay Blvd., Holladay, thefoxshop.co—BM

Cara Fox of the Fox Market. Photo credit Megan Turley.

Reason No. 18 Trails for All

Our Fave: Dirt Path Do-gooder-John Knoblock
If you like to pedal or hike the Bonneville Shoreline Trail along Mt. Olympus, north of I-80 or between Grandeur Peak and Millcreek Canyon, then you largely have John Knoblock, chair of Bonneville Shoreline Trail Committee and Trails Utah board chair, to thank. Knoblock has volunteered thousands of hours, over 20-plus years, to keeping an eye on zoning changes and working with private property owners and public stakeholders to move this beloved project toward its lofty goal: a 250-mile trail stretching along the Wasatch Range foothills from Logan to Nephi. “If you keep pushing something long enough, eventually, you’ll outlast the people resisting it,” he says. bonnevilleshorelinetrail.org, trailsutah.org—MF

Reason No. 19 You Make Me Feel Like Dancing

Our Fave: Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company
Dance thrives in the Beehive State, thanks in part to early Mormon Pioneer settlers who believed performing was a saintly pastime–divinely interconnected with the mind and spirit.  Today, Utah boasts a top-tier ballet company, (Ballet West)  the nation’s first repertory dance company, (Repertory Dance Theater), a pioneering modern dance company (Ririe-Woodbury),  the first school of ballet at an American University, (University of Utah) the world’s largest ballroom dance program (BYU) not to mention multiple powerhouse studios. It’s a serious hot spot. 138 W. Broadway, SLC, ririewoodbury.com—HH

Liturgies by Alwin Nikolais. Photo credit Fred Hayes.

Reasons to Love Utah

Reason No. 20 Creative Cocktails

Our Fave: Bijan Ghai at Urban Hill
Bijan, a Utah native, has called the Salt Lake City service industry home for over a decade. He has found his vibe at Urban Hill. Bijan is an urbane presence who appoints himself with gentlemanly calm and gliding service. His presentation is studied and understated. He has taken the bar program at Urban Hill and made it just as much a reason to visit as the food on the plate.  Urban Hill, 510 S. 300 West, SLC, urban-hill.com—JP

Bijan Ghai of Urban Hill. Photo credit Adam Finkle.

Reasons to Love Utah

Reason No. 21 A River Runs Through It

Our Fave: Cataract Canyon
Whitewater rafting in Utah involves snaking your way through towering sandstone walls along two of the West’s mightiest rivers: the Green or Colorado. Going with an outfitter is a blast, and getting a permit to go on your own raft is once in a lifetime. Of course, you need lots of experience before heading down those bad boys on your own. Trust us, you don’t want to end up flipped over in “Satan’s Gut” along the Cataract Canyon route in a section fittingly named “Purgatory.” Some of our favorites include Cataract Canyon (through Canyonlands National Park), Gates of Ladore in Dinosaur National Monument, Westwater Canyon, Desolation Canyon and daily sections in Moab. If you’re a novice, go with Moab’s Western River Expeditions or Colorado River and Trail Expeditions (CRATE) for Grand Canyon expeditions that range from three to 14 days. CRATE, 5058 S. Commerce Dr., SLC, crateinc.com; Western River Expeditions, 7258 Racquet Club Dr., SLC, westernriver.com—HH

Salt Lake magazine’s Chelsea Rushton running through Cataract Canyon’s infamous Big Drop Two.

Reason No. 22 A Little Bit of Peruvian Heaven

Our Fave: VIVA Chicken
This vibrant, quick-serve Peruvian rotisserie joint in St. George has become wildly popular with good reason. Specializing in Pollo a la Brasa, its street-style, charcoal-fire chicken and salads are flavorful, as is our fave: the Quinoa Stuffed Avocado filled with shredded chicken, quinoa and topped with red pepper rocoto mayo and balsamic vinaigrette. Don’t forget to pair your order with authentic sauce offerings: yellow and mild Aji Amarillo, medium-heat green Huacatay or red and hot Rocoto. The only thing missing from VIVA Chicken? A Salt Lake location. 1183 E. 100 South, St. George, vivachicken.com—HH

Andina Power Salad from VIVA Chicken. Photo courtesy of VIVA Chicken.

Reasons to Love Utah

Reason No. 23 What’s Not to Love About Pie?

Our Fave: Veyo Pies
Among the many things to do and see along the Dammeron Valley’s Gunlock Loop (a 45-mile roadway running north of St. George along Gunlock Road and Highway 18) is a particularly mouth-watering diversion: Veyo Pies. There, more than 19 pie varieties are whipped up daily, from traditional apple, cherry and blueberry to the house-specialty Veyo Volcano, a cream pie with chocolate, butterscotch and real whipped cream. When you go, be prepared to wait; lines regularly run out the door, especially on the weekends. 24 S. Main St., Veyo, veyopies.com—MF 

Reason No. 24 Geology Rocks

Our Fave: The Utah Department of Natural Resources Map & Bookstore
If you think rocks, or geologic maps of rocks, are art—and we absolutely do — check out the Utah Department of Natural Resources map and bookstore. They’ve got everything you need to plan your close-to-home or off-the-grid trip with our state’s fabulous geology, rockhounding, bird-watching and wildlife spotting in mind. Books, maps, trail guides and more, if you want it, they’ve either got it or can get it for you. They can even print out a customized map of your favorite place on the fly. While there, pick up their annual wall calendar packed with stunning photography of Utah’s gorgeous geologic features. 1594 W. North Temple, SLC, utahmapstore.com—DD

Reason No. 25 Swing Dancing

Our Fave: Historic Elite Hall, Hyrum
Big band, swing dance and jazz aficionados take note: Utah’s dance scene is better than ever. From “hangar hops”—1940s-themed pop-up events hosted in historic aircraft hangars—to dance clubs statewide, your TikTok algorithm isn’t the only cue that swing dance of all kinds is alive and well. And for those who want to recreate what a true jive and jitterbug event looked and even felt like, check out the 1915 historic Elite Hall hosting hopping (literally) events on the ballroom’s original spring-loaded dance floor. It’s one of the few still in existence in the U.S. Even if you’re not quite up to 1990s-era Vince Vaughn moves, the second-floor mezzanine encircling the dance floor gives lookie-loos a prime spot to enjoy the music and tap their toes. 50 W. Main Street, Hyrum, elitehall.org—DD

Reason No. 26 Upcycling Fashion

Our Fave: D’fifth Rose, The Garment Clinic
D’fifth Rose is run by Daisy Camarena who grew up in Peru and worked in Europe, where she learned custom tailoring and fashion design. She does alterations, but one of her specialties is refashioning heirloom fabrics into new things. Say you have your grandmother’s Valentino? You can’t possibly throw it away! Daisy can make you a new dress with modern lines that you could actually wear, or turn that gorgeous fabric into a decorative throw pillow. Either way, she creates something to remember grandma (and avoid the guilt of throwing out her dress.) 2343 E. 3300 South, Millcreek, dfifthrose.com—JP

Garment Clinic. Photo credit TheRose.com

Reason No. 27 Accessible Art

Our Fave: Utah State University
Spoiler: We’re all in for art of all kinds. For museums, for sculpture, for interactive installations, you can see, hear and touch. More of it, all of it, wherever we can find it. Fortunately for the denizens of Utah’s northern reaches and those who travel there, there’s plenty of it all in one place: the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art. Sited squarely on the Utah State University campus, this gorgeous contemporary art museum houses a phenomenal collection featuring a preponderance of women, Western U.S. and Indigenous artists. While on campus, take a self-directed sculpture walk (with an accompanying audio tour) to round out the day. 650 N. 1100 East, Logan, usu.edu/artmuseum—DD

Reasons to Love Utah

Reason No. 28 Pretty in Pink

Our Fave: Sand Hollow State Park
Rent a boat or a jet ski, or hike around the emerald pools in the pinky-orange bathtub that is Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane, Utah. Count on warm waters from May through October, where taking a dip on a hot Southern Utah day feels glorious. Pull out the paddleboard or kayak the waters surrounding dazzling red rock formations. Stillwater fishing, as are ATV rides on its 15,000 acres of dunes and trails, are also popular. 3351 Sand Hollow Rd., Hurricane, stateparks.utah.gov—HH

Sand Hollow State Park. Photo courtesy of Utah Division of State Parks.

Reasons to Love Utah

Reason No. 29 Alternative Routes

Our Fave: Benjamin Wood of Sweet Streets
Benjamin Wood is a board member of Sweet Streets, a non-profit that advocates for people-first design. “For decades now, we’ve been building cities for cars and not for people,” he says. But things are changing. Wood believes we have hit the high-water mark for our community’s overreliance on cars. His organization, Sweet Streets, works with planners to slow speed limits, consider bikes and pedestrians in construction and, well, make things sweeter and safer to help people out of their cars. sweetstreetsslc.org—JP

Benjamin Wood with Sweet Streets. Photo credit Adam Finkle.

Reason No. 30 We Remember our Past (Even When It’s Hard)

Our Fave: Topaz Museum
During World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, resulting in the incarceration of West Coast Japanese residents—about two-thirds natural-born American citizens—in 10 inland relocation centers. The Topaz War Relocation Center near Delta, Utah, was one. Residents lived and went to school, work and church on the dusty land surrounded by barbed wire for about three years. The Topaz Museum features a massive collection of relics and stories from those who lived there, a strong reminder to question any talk broadly painting a single nationality or race as the enemy. 55 W. Main Street, Delta, 435-864-2514, topazmuseum.org—JW  

Honorees chosen by contributing writers: Darby Doyle, Heather Hayes, Jaime Winston, Melissa Fields, Brad Mee and Jeremy Pugh.

Find the other 45 reasons to love Utah that were voted the Best of the Beehive, by you, our readers!

See more stories like this and all of our culture and community coverage. And while you’re here, why not subscribe and get six annual issues of Salt Lake magazine’s curated guide to the best of life in Utah. 

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